Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Of things that go bump in the night

The younger girl asks to watch TV constantly and her most frequent request is for Dora. Always, she wants to watch Dora. Yet she's afraid of Swiper, that sneaky fox. So she can't watch a whole episode of Dora comfortably without her big sister. As soon as Swiper appears on screen, she calls for E. E! It's Swiper! E rushes over and says every time: It's okay. Hold my hand. And so they sit, hand in hand, and the younger faces her fears with the reassurance of her big sister.

E is this close to being four, and her fears are more abstract. She worries about bad guys getting in our house when she's asleep. She has been feeling so nervous about the dark that we've added a second night light to her bedroom. She worries about getting dead, about when it will happen to us, when it will happen to her.

What worried you when you were little?

We tell stories all the time and the girls hang on every word. I want the words I set before them to build their esteems. I don't ever want the words I set before them to cause them any more anxiety. But how often do we repeat words by rote, without ever considering their meanings?

They know the lullaby Rock a Bye Baby that we all know. It's on every children's classical music anthology in existence, I think. It's so ominous, though, and have you ever stopped to wonder why we sing that to our innocents? According to my handy-dandy Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, it first appeared in a Mother Goose anthology in 1765 with the note: "This may serve as a Warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last." (p. 70)

Now seriously, my girls know the lyrics to that nursery rhyme but do they need to worry their pretty little heads over a message like that? So when E asked if the song means that babies get dead I invented a new interpretation for her. Yes, my toddler and my preschooler are as hedonistic and egocentric as any child in that general age bracket, but I'll find other ways to teach modesty and humility, thankyouverymuch.

And so, I humbly present to you my contemporary interpretation of a very old classic. My True Story of Rock A Bye Baby posted over at Simple Kids today. Let me know what you think. And I'm curious: did any other classic nursery rhymes bring nightmares to your youth? Pin It